Of the thirteen songs that appeared on his self-titled and first album, Bob Dylan, the Minnesota native only wrote two of them: “Talkin’ New York” and “Song to Woody.” The latter, which Dylan wrote to honor the great Woody Guthrie, begins with these memorable lines:
I’m out here a thousand miles from my homeWalkin’ a road other men have gone down
Later in the song, Dylan sings:
Hey, Woody Guthrie, but I know that you know
All the things that I’m a-sayin’ an’ a-many times more
I’m a-singin’ you the song, but I can’t sing enough
’Cause there’s not many men that done the things that you’ve done…
I’m a-leavin’ tomorrow, but I could leave today
Somewhere down the road someday
The very last thing that I’d want to do
Is to say I’ve been hittin’ some hard travelin’ too
In April 2013 the Woody Guthrie Center opened in Tulsa, Oklahoma. So, given Dylan’s affection for Guthrie as well as the impressive way that the center has preserved and displayed Guthrie’s archives, it’s not implausible to think that Dylan would trust his archives with the same curators. And this is precisely what he has done. Since May 2022, Tulsa has been the home of the Bob Dylan Center, which is literally adjacent to the Woody Guthrie Center.
Because I had a speaking engagement at the University of Tulsa on the evening of September 7, 2023, I took the opportunity to make a visit to the Bob Dylan Center the next morning prior to my flight home.
As I was walking from my hotel on the way to the center I was (naturally) listening to some Dylan on my iPhone. The first song that popped up was “Song to Woody.” The moment I heard that opening line–“I’m out here a thousand miles from my home”–I stopped the song and opened my Google Map app. I put in for my destination, Hibbing, Minnesota, the city in which Dylan grew up. (He graduated from Hibbing High School in 1959). Turns out that the distance between Dylan’s Hibbing boyhood home (2425 Seventh Avenue East) and the Bob Dylan Center in Tulsa is 919 miles, which is about a 1000. (I eliminated any interstates from my map, since they were not an option in 1962). So, with both centers in Tulsa, Dylan, in a sense, has traveled a thousand miles from his home somewhere down the road, with, of all people, Woody Guthrie.